The idea of taking a vacation without kids can be a divisive topic among parents. Some say the solo time is vital to a marriage, others believe vacations should be all about family and then there are the parents who simply couldn’t manage a kids-free trip without feeling loads of worry or guilt.
While I think most people would agree that couples don’t typically need a vacation without their kids to be able to reconnect, many parents will report that the occasional solo getaway does wonders. Plus, some studies even show health benefits to vacation like being able to better deal with stress – and what parent couldn’t use that?
As a mom, I do think most of the money we spend as a family on vacations should be on trips that include the kids and I’m also a firm believer in family travel. I don’t think kids need to be some certain, big-enough age before they should be able to start seeing the world – whether they’ll remember it or not.
That said, my husband and I have both taken solo trips for work and pleasure and we’ve found a few things that help lessen the guilt and make sure the kids don’t feel left out. It’s not always easy and you’ll still miss your kids – a lot – but you can try to set the stage for a positive experience.
1. Go as a family first
I don’t feel as much guilt about going on vacation without kids if we’ve already (and recently) had a fun vacation as a family or have one planned soon. Sure, the kids might have just as much fun staying at grandma’s house as they would coming along with us, but I don’t like the message it might send if I place my own vacations above traveling as a family. If budget is an issue (obviously traveling as a couple is much cheaper than as a party of four or five), keep in mind that the family trip doesn’t have to be extravagant. It could be a camping weekend or a night at a nearby hotel with a pool.
2. Have a parent stay home
Maybe if you’re like me, you can’t stand the idea of the two people your kids need most jet-setting away without them (you know, the ever-pestering what-if-we-both-die-in-a-plane-crash fear). For this and other reasons, I feel much better about taking individual trips with friends, siblings or visiting family out of state while the other parent stays home with the kids. The traveling parent comes back refreshed and the parent who stayed home got to have some memorable (if occasionally chaotic) moments with the kids.
3. Stay connected while you’re away
If your little ones are prone to separation anxiety, a quick FaceTime with mom or dad might go a long way. I was able to read bedtime stories over FaceTime each night of my most recent trip and my kids could see me whenever they wanted. It also helped to plan fun activities for them before I left so they kept busy and entertained most of the time, and we talked a lot about the fun things we would do together when I got back.
4. Consider incentives (aka bribery)
Like most kids, mine quickly made the association that mom or dad will come back with gifts after being away on a trip. This simple fact could easily be the reason they don’t mind one of us going out of town. We try to bring them things unique to the area, but I’ll admit I also recently ordered them toys on Amazon to be delivered to the house mid-way through my trip. It’s certainly not necessary, but it helped me get on the plane knowing that the kids would be getting an awesome surprise in the mail in two days.
5. Have a back-up plan
Anxious parents like myself know all about the “what-ifs” you might imagine as you plan a vacation without kids. They won’t fully go away until you’re back home and snuggling your little sweethearts, but it helps me to make plans and back-up plans for things like last-minute childcare changes or knowing what the options are for calling it a failed experiment and hopping on a plane to come home early. It also helps to line up a few friends or family members who can lend a hand if needed to whoever’s staying with the kids – just knowing you have a network of people nearby to help is huge.
If you’ve made the plans and worked out everything you can to make sure your kids feel secure and connected to you while you’re away, then now it’s time to take the plunge. The time spent alone, with friends or with your spouse could make you a better, more patient parent when you return – and at the very least you’ll learn something about yourself and your family dynamics in the process.
Have you ever taken a vacation without your children? Do you recommend it? Tell us in the comments!
This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2017.